DILG probes alleged harassment of onion farmer in Pangasinan

DILG probes alleged harassment of onion farmer in Pangasinan
A woman buys onions at a market in Manila on January 11, 2023. The Philippines’ department of agriculture plans to import 22,000 metric tons of onions to address the supply gap that has caused prices to skyrocket.
AFP / Jam Sta. Rosa

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of the Interior and Local Government said it is investigating the alleged harassment of an onion farmer in Pangasinan who testified in a Senate hearing last week.

DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos ordered the agency’s regional and provincial offices to look into reports that officers from the Bayambang Municipal Police Station harassed a widow of an onion farmer.

Abalos reminded authorities to observe the rule of law and established protocols to avoid causing fear.

In a Senate committee inquiry into the high onion prices last week, Merlita Gallardo shared the difficulties faced by local onion farmers. She said her husband committed suicide in 2021 after failing to settle debts and incurring huge losses.

Sen. Imee Marcos said local cops repeatedly visited Gallardo in her residence. She added the visits were prompted by an order from the DILG and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

The Philippine National Police apologized for the incident, saying the visits aimed to validate information. Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr., PNP chief, told dzRH that the incident was probably a result of a “misunderstanding” that left Gallardo scared.

Groups sought for the suspension of the importation of onion, which the government said will address low supply and soaring prices. With the harvest season approaching, onion farmers warned the move will kill them.

Data from the Department of Agriculture showed the prices of red onion skyrocketed to as much as P700 per kilogram in Metro Manila by the end of last year.

The increases were already painful for consumers as onion prices piggybacked on a rising inflation trend that effectively smashed purchasing power. Inflation rose 8.1% year-on-year in December. — Gaea Katreena Cabico with report from Kaycee Valmonte and Ramon Royandoyan

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